Office Hours: Ethan Philbrick and Alice Teyssier on "Choral Marx"
October 25, 2018: Alice Teyssier speaks with Ethan Philbrick about the premiere of "Choral Marx," as part of the Karl Marx Festival at NYU Skirball.

Ethan Philbrick, a Brooklyn-based composer and writer, has performed original work in New York at BRIC, SculptureCenter, Abrons Arts Center and the Grey Art Gallery. His writing has been published in TDR, PAJ, Women and Performance, Studies in Gender and Sexuality and Movement Research Performance Journal. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Muhlenberg College.

Alice Teyssier is Clinical Assistant Professor of Music. As a flutist and soprano, she holds B.M. and M.M. degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory, a Specialization Diploma from the Conservatoire de Strasbourg in France, and a DMA from the University of California, San Diego. Teyssier’s performance specialties include contemporary music and experimental practices as well as early and Baroque music.

Transcript

Alice Teyssier: Hi! I’ll let you start-

Ethan Philbrick: *laughs* Ok great-

AT:- that way we have a model we can go off of. 

EP: -great, great. I am Ethan Philbrick. I’m a composer and a writer and I am here because I have a new piece that I’ve written that is a chorale setting of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels… 19- (messes up) oh God! What century are we in? Good question for this piece actually! Is there a Communist Manifesto from 1848? And- and so it’s a big chorale setting of it. It’s a piece for nine singers as a primary ensemble and then me playing the cello and then a volunteer ensemble of like 30 singers that sit within the audience and it’s happening on Sunday at 5 PM here at Skriball!

AT: Wonderful! I can’t wait to hear more about it and learn more about it! My name is Alice Teyssier. I am a singer and flutist particularly with the international contemporary ensemble down in Brooklyn and as of last fall, joined the faculty here in the Faculty of Arts and Science, in the Music Department, where I am sort of overseeing some of the performance activities. And I’ve gotten a chance to perform a little bit at Skirball. I was in David Lang’s Whisper Opera last winter, which was a really wonderful experience to kind of exit the Arts and Science Silver building and into a stage kind of situation and I wonder if you’ve had experience performing here at Skirball before and what your experience has been like or if this is your first time…? 

EP: Yeah, yeah this is my first time performing at Skirball. I did my graduate training at NYU in Performance Studies at Tisch, which as a department is primarily focused on theoretical training and so my work there was rarely as a writer… But I was performing there some and there’s a little studio space there that I like made some things in. But, I’ve never performed at Skirball and this has been- it’s been really wonderful. It was Jay Wegman- the curator here- approached me like two years ago? Because I had done a series of workshop versions of this piece which consisted of a sort of very informal reading group that was also a chorus- where we get together and we’d read 19th century political texts primarily the works of Marx and as a way to sort of like disrupt our- how we were thinking about the politics of the present too by sort of moving back to a- sort of dislocating ourselves in time? And so we were doing this- we were getting together and reading and then I’d write short musical refrains using texts from the pieces we read and I’d teach them to everybody in the reading group when we’d do this thing. And so Jay had heard about a workshop version of that that I had done and that I would call Chorale Marx (Karl Marx… sort of punny and fun and we’d put red light bulbs in all the lights- you know and then we’d sit and we’d put blankets on the floor and we’d read Marx and sing together. And so I was doing these and then he was starting to curate here and this is- yeah, in the Fall of 2016, he was like “I think I’ve been thinking of doing a Marx Festival… Is there an evening like version of this piece?” And I was like, “Oh, absolutely! I’ve been working on it!” Like this is all been a process to work on it. So yeah- so it was like two years ago first thing- came out performing at Skirball and then it’s been happening slowly since and so I’ve been- I did one- I did a sort of strange little performance at Skirball two? a year ago? Sort of in- there’s this subterranean rehearsal room and we put on a performance there that was called Song in the Expanded Field which is thinking about sort of like artists not necessarily within music as a discipline, but who are working with song form. And so that was- I did a little sort of- we like set up shop in the Skirball’s rehearsal room and put on a performance.

AT: Which seems almost maybe more appropriate somehow? To be underground-

EP: Totally, totally and it’s this- 

AT:- devising something… 

EP: Exactly! And it’s this wonderful- I mean it’s a crazy room. It’s this room with a very low ceiling that the performers, as soon as they got in there, were like “Oh my God! This feels like we’re performing on a cruise ship!” Because it’s this like- it’s this low thing with no light, but it was- and it felt like we were all like camping out on this sort of like post-apocalyptic cruise ship like performing for each other when we’re really just like in the bowels of NYU. And so yeah- so I did that like a year and a half ago, but then I’ve been rehearsing here for this past month and working with the tech crew here and it’s been like it’s been really wonderful. I’m used to performing quite small things that usually involve just like my body and what I can do in a space and I bring sort of my tech in a bag and I set it up and it’s about the sort of precarious situation of being/working in performance and so working in a bigger palette of like a theater with technical capacities with big ensembles, thinking about light and space…. And that has been really exciting and it’s been my work with Skirball that’s like letting me do that right now. 

AT: Terrific! Yeah, it’s such a richness to have real experts in all of those domains actually putting their thoughts into a project and letting you sort of make decisions. Yeah, I can’t imagine how lovely this must be kind of as a little celebratory cake at the end of your studies here. 

EP: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

AT: That’s gorgeous. I’m super curious about this reading group…

EP: Yeah. 

AT: Because a lot of graduate students do engage in sort of a little bit alternative kind of reading groups and study groups or whatever even you might want to call them and I’m curious as to what you mean exactly by read? Like when you were together… reading seems to go directly into singing, so I’m wondering how much of that is actual sound making? 

EP: Totally. 

AT: Also, just when you started this-

EP: Yeah yeah, this was- it was a while ago. It was, I think like the summer of 2014 or something… and it was when I was first starting to play with this and it was- and so the format of it- it was like yeah, it was June of 2014 and it was actually a relation- I like started throwing a party, and I remember sending out an email that was actually in relation to Pride Month! I was like, “So it’s Pride Month… there are lots of celebrations and I’ve decided how I want to celebrate pride this way is read Marx out loud with my friends at my apartment!” Like let’s this- like I’m I’m gonna come out as a leftist this summer! Or something you know? Like coming out, it’s an everyday practice and now it’s says “I’m Marxist!” But I- and so it started there, actually, and it was- and then part of its formal constraint was just practical. It was that like I didn’t want to make anybody read at home because I knew we’re all really busy. I was like- and I and I wanted it also to be like I have a lot of academic friends, but I also wanted artist friends and I also wanted to organize their friends to come. So I was like, “Let’s not actually like-” I had had sort of like theory reading groups before but that was like, “Okay, go read Derrida and we’ll get together next month- -and try to talk about it!” 

AT: Come back with a really smart statement! 

EP: Exactly, exactly and then everybody’s sort of trying to outsmart each other- 

AT: Right. 

EP:- and it’s awful and so I was like “No… let’s just pick a short- a series of short things and then get together and all have made copies and we’ll sit around and we’ll read things out loud. And we’ll do-” And so then it was like and so I was doing sort of little experimental ways to read things out loud. So we- I’d do some where we’d go around the circle and just trade sentences… and then I’d do ones where we would read it all together but at different paces, so it was actually this like cacophonous sort of thing that we were reading, it was in the room but you couldn’t quite hear it, but you were reading. Then we’d do ones where we were like, yeah- trying to read it as slowly as possible altogether, we’d do ones where we’d switch every word and try to go as fast as possible… So there was like we were doing this like- I was already being like- “How- what is sort of like a collective mode of reading and how do we do it in a way that is both about thinking about the content of the work but also is making the work live in the room in a different kind of way?” And then out of that, at the end, I would also have like picked a sentence or something that I really wanted to intone in a different kind of way and I had like written some kind of refrain that we would then sing together for a while with the idea also being that like music is a way to memorize or commit to memory or commit to our bodies in a different kind of way so like if- 

AT: Absolutely. 

EP:- and that was something that I was always having trouble with in grad school, even in classes that were more sort of practically engaged like theory- sort of cultural theory classes that they were really invested in for the practice or artistic practice, but we were reading in a way that we’d like feel like we were losing the texts really quickly if you weren’t really like ingesting them and I was like, “No! I wanna be able to be reading these things that feel so pertinent for my clinical practice and my artistic practice and like remember them.” And be able to be talking and be like “Oh yeah, well but Marx said you know- ‘Bah!'” And I just say it and like I wanted to have that so I was like “Oh, music is a way to have that.” Because they will like inscribe it differently… and so yeah so it would be like yeah I was reading like sort of like really early Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach– yeah. Theses on Feuerbach– which is like these like short little aphorisms that has become grounding for his thought and his political practice and they’re you know- the last one is “Philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it.” And then there’s another one- “Existence is nothing but the ensemble of social relations.” His like sort of a statement of what ontology is and like so both of those- I’d know those because I have little musical refrains of them that I’ve like sung with a lot of groups and they’re there and they’re… And so then yeah, so then it slowly grew over the past four years into this setting of the Communist Manifesto as like, “Okay so this is- as a text, this is the one that’s like you know- it’s- I mean he is writing in a lot of different- Marx is writing in a lot of different registers. Sometimes really in an analytic gesture, like how do we understand capitalism, so as to think beyond it? And then sometimes in a really explicitly political gesture and so- and the manifesto is like the most sort of explicitly political as a piece of writing. It’s like wanting to do as much as it is to describe and you know actually writing so as to manifest. Not writing so as to… 

AT: Analyze. 

EP: Analyze, or know. Although that there’s so much analysis in it. But yeah, so I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna try to set the Manifesto in some strange way…” And so I started going at it. 

AT: Yeah, I’m really taken by what you said about the text living in a different way in the room? That’s been something I’ve been very interested in my own practices, I mean anytime you start reading philosophy… 

EP: Yeah. 

AT: …equals grad school… Most of us are only exposed to it a little bit later in the game. 

EP: Yeah, totally. 

AT: We start to think like, “Why have I not been applying this to my practice?” And then figuring out ways to apply to your practice and then thinking about what your practice actually is and it’s so interesting that when we read philosophy, it’s usually in a comfy chair in our house or at our desk, completely silently, taking it in for ourselves, maybe taking a note, maybe using a highlighter. How much of that is really happening in our practice?

EP: Totally.

AT: Our practice is absolutely visceral, it’s absolutely physical, it’s fully repetitive. We’re doing things over and over and over to internalize, to process through our body, to allow whatever is happening inside our body to reemerge in a new way, so that kind of- that change is possible and happening no matter what. So I’m really taken by this concept of reading, not just for ingesting in an intellectual way, but actually viscerally experiencing almost a script. And so I take it, I assume, that you had read the Manifesto before? 

EP: Yes I read it for the first- I remember buying a copy at a thrift store maybe when I was like 18 because I grew up- I grew up on Nantucket Island… so hotbed for a communist activity… no no! Like so hyper-capitalist playground of the rich and famous, you know for in the summer, not so much in the winter. So really a place of like really seeing stark class differential. 

AT: And may I ask I hope it’s not too personal, but where would you position yourself in that class differential?

EP: Um my family- 

AT: Or your family- 

EP: Yeah my family had mobility within my life, so like my dad is a writer who got successful when I was in high school. So my family was a year-round- like I grew up there year-round and my mom is a lawyer, so in professional class… so we’re- we did well. My parents are like- I was growing up in, I would say in an upper middle-class zone and with my dad’s mainstream success as a writer, my parents are now wealthy. 

AT: But they’re also people who think socially or were thinking artistically, so you were raised also with this… 

EP: Yeah yeah yeah and so and so on Nantucket there was this like sense of like really experiencing what extreme wealth looked like, and then also- and like seeing it so clearly and intimately and then having like a real sense of how unequally distributed it was and how actually sort of like violently infrequent it was able to be experienced. And so I was like having- I like had a sort of like nascent class consciousness and so I would like- I saw it at a thrift store and was like thinking, “Oh…I have a feeling that I want that and that there’s some critical language for the like inequality of the world that I’m seeing that I need there…” But I got it and I didn’t read it for a really long time. And then in grad school, I was studying here with Jose Esteban Muñoz who’s a queer theorist who passed a few years ago, but before he passed he was teaching a course- he was like a fantastic Marxist queer theorist and- and he taught a course on The Commons, and trying to like reimagine what what it might be to try to think more about the world in common as a way to critique capitalism and empire and things. And I took that class and he taught the Manifesto once we read the Manifesto in that class as like one way to think about what it’s like to live in a world beyond privation and beyond profit and individual accumulation being the only guiding value of the world. And so I read the Manifesto then… and then the next year I took a Marxist theory course. I think it was called sort of Marxism and Form– which is- it was like Marxist cultural theory course with Jose again and which is- Marxism and Form is a great Frederic Jameson book about Marxist cultural theory, but um- and in that class I think we maybe read but we read all of The Grundrisse so which is this giant Marxist notebooks as he’s preparing to write Capital and as we- I was reading in that course and Jose passed at the end of that during that course. So, I think there is also part of my relation to wanting to read Marx out loud in a sort of like strange pedagogical way is maybe also about a kind of working through of the experience of loss of a teacher and- and how to keep a kind of like relation to leftist cultural theory that was also always about sort of like a weird queer gathering in a room? You know, like that was not just about not just an image of what we what left us organizing already looks like, but it’s also sort of like a weirder party or something you know like that kind of legacy was also part of it, I think…

AT: So I take it that in those first courses where you were engaging with the text, that was that kind of- the previous activity I was sort of describing- like a quiet, internalized, individualized, exposure- first exposure. You’ve said so many things that are fascinating to me, just in terms of how you engage with this particular text. How do I formulate this? One thing you just said, in terms of like what leftist groups might look like or do look like, I wonder what your takeaway is about that? Like what do we- what do we imagine a leftist group to look like? And maybe sound like? And in what way does your reading group/choral endeavor/ensemble now differ from that or maybe augment that?

EP: Yeah, totally yeah. I mean I think there’s- there’s like an inherited image of the American Left which i think is actually a false image but it’s a false image that gets repeated a lot but that that- it’s a sort of like I mean we can sort of like character it and it’s like sort of a group of baby boomer white guys being like, “Oh man,why hasn’t the Proletarian revolution happened yet?!” And like and “Oh!” and- and blaming basically like identity politics for why the proletarian- like the uprising hasn’t happened, you know being like, “Oh! like feminism and and anti-racist politics and gay liberation and the sixties and seventies like broke apart the unified left and man!” And just like mourning that loss since the sixties or something, you know? Like that’s some image of like the flag Marxist politics and that is that it’s like class is the only antagonism that exists. Every other social antagonism is a ruse and we just need to all organize around class antagonism.

AT: Big evil! 

EP: Yeah and that’s the thing. And that- and that and they’re just so- I have learned from political organizers and theorists and social workers who just have like a really strong account of why that is a ruse and that- and that political circles around racial oppression and gender depression and sexual oppression like are part of what elections practice might look like and have always been and like that’s the leftist practice we want to look towards. So- so I think thinking about like coalitional movements that are articulating these really complicated entanglements of different kinds of social oppressions and histories of systems or the domination of things that allow for a lot of disunity within the leftist movement, you know, like allow for a lot of different kinds of struggles that are coarticulating themselves, but not necessarily having to ever actually find the unified circle, but are learning from and sharing resources. And so a kind of like the ways in which how a kind of class articulated leftist movement might be working with and alongside a feminist movement that’s trying to think about race and gender in tandem and then also be thinking about that in relation to thinking about sexuality and gender transitivity and things like that like like how all these things might be coarticulating and working together. And so, it was really important for me is that- it was like, “Okay, if I’m gonna set the Communist Manifesto to music now… how it takes shape in a room needs to be viscerally making an argument for that kind of organizing structure…” You know, it needs to be viscerally articulating the ways in which a call for like some kind of communism to come must be also a feminist and anti-racist and like articulation. It has to be that kind of a call or a voicing and so- so that’s happening both in like I think formal stuff? It’s like how do I actually make sound? Like what kinds of sounds are happening. It’s also happening in like who is singing it. So wanting it- so trying to find collaborators who are also working in decolonial political struggles and then also working in feminist political movements and then- but then who are also musicians who are doing these things too and bringing that kind of an ensemble together to try to then look back to 19th century Europe and the anti-capitalist struggles there to think about how they might resonate with these other like other fronts of struggles for a more equal, less violent world now. So it’s- it’s like a tumultuous mix. You know? Like it’s a- and that- and there’s like disagreement within the ensemble you know? It’s not- it’s not- you know, we have like some like real labor organizer guys in there as well, and then we have a lot of people who have like have a lot of like critiques of how those forms somehow sometimes work and like- and we’re there some trying to sing our way through it together…

AT: So this is maybe where I’ll poke the first dagger… Just in terms of- and I think about this a lot too because as a member of an ensemble and you know we take a lot of pride in the diversity of composers that we work with and the types of audiences that we might try to seek out, but in terms of our makeup, we’re actually pretty unified… and that’s been problematic for us to deal with and grapple with and in some ways, your endeavor has a little bit of an opposite problem- which is that the makeup of the ensemble has the diversity, has the struggles, has the different approaches to maybe a common desire for change? And yet, and I wonder how you- how do you feel about this and how you grapple with this- when we log on to the Skirball website and it’s your name that is there and it’s also the name of Karl Marx. So those are two white men that are being kind of given the sense of authorship in a project that actually, the more I learned about it, and the more I’m talking to you about it, seems to have very little to do with authorship.

EP: Yeah I think… yeah there was a real question for me going into it being like “Okay, do I- is the angle with this piece to like create something that is the ideal form of non-privatized to collective authorship thing?” Like do I do that? Is that the work I’m making here? And within the workshops of it it fully was and my name wasn’t attached to it, it was a workshop and it wasn’t- it was the thing… And when I got approached to do something for like a proscenium stage, I was like, “Okay there’s a way in which I can keep doing that kind of work…” But then the thing that felt interesting for me to do was to bring up that like- to do something that actually would elicit this contradiction, like would be- which would be a thing that would actually be like in a weird contradictory tension between the individual white male author and a collective of voices that was always like disorganizing that and exceeding it. And- and so I was like “Okay I’m actually- I think that the goal for this, you know- you know, we’re at NYU…” The wonderful comic Bowen Yang has the bit where he went to NYU and he says like- he says like “I went to the world’s biggest real estate development agency- NYU!” Or he says, you know he says, “Actually I went to NYU Tisch- the world’s biggest headshot manufacturer!” But like- but so I mean like you know, we’re gonna perform an anti-capitalist choral work… at NYU. You you know like look we’re already gonna be just like dwelling in a ton of little contradiction, so what if we’re also working with this one between this sort of like male author and the more distributed ensemble? And so- so I think like that- it is like a listening some ambivalence about that, and like a critique of authorship, and a critique of me as author… I’m like down for that to be one of the questions people are coming to it with, that are like “Why is your name on this when it’s like clearly this like collective of voices…?” Like that- if that question is getting asked, and people are wanting to push on that, that would be exciting for this piece for me. 

AT: Uh-huh okay. 

EP: You know like- like I would want-

AT: It is one of the outcomes you are hoping for. 

EP: Yeah totally. To be like and this piece doesn’t have an easy relationship to Marx either, you know? Like we also- and I think that really happens formally within the piece, like our relationship to the text is not always with it. We’re also like really ripping at it and tearing into shreds aurally… you know like there’s- it’s not just like (mimics music chord), it’s like- also there’s some really crucial moments in it where it’s very illegible what the text is and so that’s not- it’s not a- I tend to agree with a lot of his analysis of how capitalism was working in the 19th century, you know? Like- I’m like I’m also very pretty with it, but that in some really crucial moments we’re not… 

AT: Sure and it’s also worth remembering this was really young guy that hadn’t had a whole lot of professional experiences and was critiquing the whole system he was just starting to engage in, which you know, can be analogous to your eye and the kind of pulse we find within that too. Yeah, and I think we- we do operate under much much larger structures that- where that question and that maybe problematic isn’t posed? I certainly know, bringing it back to the problems we face in our own group, like we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of this stuff if we didn’t have the label of the ensemble on it that has a track record that you know has  met a certain qualification of success and- and therefore has resources both financial and social to be doing work like this. So I mean, we have to understand, also, the complexity of all that. Switching gears now, also, back into your processing of, in some way, like grief and transcendence, of sort of a pupil mentor relationship, particularly around Marx, and particularly around maybe your identity versus your intellectual self? How has, just even in like really Layman’s terms, how has interpreting it through your body and allowing the sounds to live there? And I’m also making the assumption that you work with it in English? 

EP: Yeah- it’s the Samuel Moore translation. 

AT: How has that how has that felt? How has that transformed your relationship to the text? How does that transform your relationship to yourself? 

EP: Yeah. What starts coming up for me in thinking about it- it’s like I- so my training is primarily as a cellist. And I- and I sang- this is gonna get biographical- but I sing a lot as a kid and I was really sort of like a singer and a- and instrumentalist was the thing and then I- I got like just like very severely bullied in middle school and was just like experienced a lot of physical violence for a year or so and it was all centered around how my voice exposed me as like a sexual and gender deviant. You know, it was all of that. I was- I’m somehow gender non-conforming through my vocal performance, and it was like totally unacceptable to this young toxic males at Nantucket Middle School. So I was- I just like experienced a ton of physical violence and it was always because of my voice in some way and my voice like exposing me as- as different and so- and then I like developed like a ton of dissociative capacities for that like for dealing with that… and sort of like didn’t actually address it…  and I like vowed I like went on a vow of silence I was never gonna like speak in school because it like done all these things to me and then I like- and so I just played the cello all the time, and I was a cellist for a little while- and like and so there’s something about- but then for the past like four or five years I’ve been really wanting to work with my voice. I really wanted to work the scenarios and I think it’s like it’s so and there’s so much pain and fear for me in vocalizing in front of people- but then I’ve been asking myself to do it a ton and learning about it. And I feel like- and there’s something about- and there’s just a politics to all of that- and it’s like such an intense like the bodily experience of like singing without fear…

AT:Is there such a thing? 

EP: I don’t think so, but I think -definitely don’t think so. But there’s something of like the- there’s like a less fearful mode. There’s like something where it’s like you’re not imagining your own persecution and immediately hear something you know? Like there’s something and- and feeling what that feels like in my body and feeling that- that might feel like when that might be also about a political articulation? 

AT: Which maybe you feel more confident articulating, actually. 

EP: Totally and I think and I- so I think there’s this thing of like feeling able to like voice a critique of a system, voice a critique of a practice. Then all the meanings of voice saying- that’s grown in this project for me and I think I wasn’t even- yeah I was thinking about that today… like I sing a little bit in it and- and I was like and there’s- there is some kind of like mesamorphic relationship between the content of the text and what it’s like to sing it… and there’s something- and it’s like a practice I’ve wanted to be in. I don’t- I don’t quite know- I don’t know – like I don’t have like the answer of like what it’s done for me, but I think but it’s like I like want to be in it. 

AT: I think the answer is the fact that you’ve made this piece, in a lot of ways and you do participate in some ways political vocalizing.

EP: Yeah. 

AT: In some ways, like this post Trump election period, has been a time for a lot of people to decide that they have voice. And in a way that maybe- maybe we had sort of started to sitting on our hands a little bit, but it’s interesting to me to hear that this project was started far before that, even before maybe like that orange hair became part of the political sphere at all? 

EP: Yeah, he wasn’t in this yeah he wasn’t in the political sphere yeah. 

AT: And we could- I remember even thinking like, “I’ve never thought about this human being and I see him emerging in my life and I can forget him very soon!” Unfortunately, that was not the case… but what I find interesting is that you have already been developing this practice and we touched on a little bit, also the sort of intersectionality of the struggle, so to speak. And there are a lot of- I think there’s a lot of debate about how to do that well and how to do that effectively and how to actually retain our sort of common struggles as we’re starting to get stronger inside of our individual academic groups where we feel comfortable speaking and gaining our voice. And so I see- I see this project that you’re presenting as a sort of attempt to show us that and also infiltrate the audience with a little bit of maybe encouragement? So I wonder- I wonder how you are imagining modeling a sort of ideal world, or some sort of ideal future through this performance?

EP: Yeah, I think- yeah I think- I think one thing… well part of it is like, in this moment of like sort of an intensified violence, of that- and then sort of like intensified- that was- it was all sort of like they’re all ongoing the structures of violent you know like the relationship to immigration that it’s been so violent under Trump- is also like a- it’s a- it’s an intensification of something that was already ongoing you know? Like all of that- it’s so like- and so I think in this moment of like heightened responsiveness to like an intensified political regime, I think it feels very helpful to like look back to like a long ongoing history of resistance, to not get to only responsive to like the workings of Trump and his regime. But like be thinking about like the ongoing struggles that we’re now having to more like intensified responses to things, but they’re actually we’re building on like really long histories. And so I think there’s something that’s like I want to get a big group of people together and intone Marx you know? Like because there’s like- it will do something about being like, “Okay like let’s just attach to whatever we might want to attach to from this like 19th century moment…” As to enable a sense of like how we’re stepping into like a bigger stream, in terms of resisting violent structures. So I think, um that’s part of it. And then the other thing for the performance- there’s something- one thing I’ve been wrestling a lot with, in sort of directing and composing it, is like “How do I deal with a world I want to make on stage?” Because I know I have a lot of friends who make work where it feels like the ensemble, you know, is like giving us this sort of like- 

AT: Neutral idea? 

EP: Idea? Yeah, yeah and- and- I decided I didn’t want that. I wanted us to never not keep feeling the conditions of our alienation. So I guess I’m just like exposing myself as Brechtian, but but like I like I didn’t want to solve it ever. Or like suddenly be like, “And here we all are all together…” You know? Like- like I didn’t want to quite get there, so there was a capacity to like always like for it to not feel done at the end or not have just sort of like let us feel like we overcame it or something. 

AT: A Ta-Da moment. 

EP: Yeah! And so- and so I think there’s this thing of like, I am staging a kind of cool activity that I’m very interested in and do think is ideal, but I didn’t want it to ever quite fully go there. 

AT: Yeah it’s a process, not a product. 

EP: Yeah totally- yeah so it’s like we’re almost there but not quite there and- and I- so I hope that people come and then there’s this sense of like some things were awakened, but it doesn’t feel like the work has already been done, and then we leave being like with this sort of leftist question of “What is to be done?” 

AT: And maybe each person in that audience has a different- 

EP: Totally. 

AT: immediate solution. 

EP: and there’s all the capillary responses, you know that it then goes out… 

AT: Which I think is much stronger… I’m teaching a course this semester on repetition, which sounds very boring, but I think repetition is being, you know, crucial in change making in revolutionary practice! And so you’re you’re engaging with, kind of, text that has been cycling for generations and generations of thinkers and workers and artists and using it to see into late 2018, what the change is this time. I think it’s very fascinating! So looking forward to hearing the performance and seeing how it all comes about and having more ideas pop into my head! 

EP: Yeah I’d love to keep talking about it. 

AT: And yes! And having many more conversations with you.

EP: Please, yeah. Thank you! 

AT: Pleasure speaking with you.